Ghosts Of Ascalon Review

August 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Posted in Books, Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 13 Comments
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Ooooh its not horrible.

As I Live blogged reading the book in two several hour long sessions a lot of the details and things I might think of mentioning in a review have already been said.

There is still plenty to talk about however.

To start with I was surprised by the quality of the writing. The novel may rely on a few cliches, have a couple of predictable elements, and may get repetitive at points, but it was good.

I thought the descriptions could be over done. Early in the first live blog, I commented on one sentence in particular. “The sweltering summer heat that enveloped Divinity’s Reach above had stolen deep into the bowels of these hidden burial grounds where it festered like a hidden wound.” Yeah its hot, I get it, and how does heat fester exactly? A hidden wound? Rather than an unhidden wound of course.

Those sorts of sentences aren’t prevalent though, and if anything really annoyed me it was the repetition and overuse of things I liked in the book. A norn character’s constant use of exclamations involving his gods is amusing at first. Later, the unusually large variety of variations on his curses, and the frequency begins to wear.

Otherwise I found the writing to be tight, well plotted, with little in the way of diversions. When the plot does diverge its necessary backstory, introduction of new characters, and the stories of the troubled races involved. Sort of the point of the whole book.

I kept in mind two different people have writing credits on the book, but what their roles were is hard to discern. I didn’t notice any notable style shifts, or tone differences. Then again I’m not a professional book reviewer.

I thought some of the characters were a little 2 dimensional, but there were examples of depth. Gullik is a buffoon, loud, egotistical, and a maroon. It’s quite obvious that for the most part he’s in on the joke though, he knows how he comes across and even plays with it. Dougal tells himself to avoid danger, not to adventure with people he likes. He ends up risking his life, and adventuring with people he likes. Kind of a cliched character but fun to read in any case.

There’s a wide breadth of setting too. For the first book in the Guild Wars universe I could hardly have expected to visit multiple continents, a dozen different landscapes etc. Kryta, Ascalon, 3 major cities, and enough dungeon like areas to keep people happy. The description of the dragonbrand is a great introduction to the path of destruction and the might of the dragons. It added a great element to the fantasy aspect of the book.

One thing I noticed that made me think about what would be in the game, was the number of traps. There were a lot of them. It left me wondering just how often Ackbar jokes will be popping up in Guild Wars 2.

Overall I was pleased with the quality of the book. A lot of game tie-in novels can end up being one-note, cliche ridden, tripe. Filled to the brim with too much complicated game lore backstory. I can’t comment on the backstory part, I know too much of Guild Wars to be puzzled by references to lore, but I found the opposite. The story was more complicated than simply good vs evil. There were moral gray areas, even deaths.

Most of all I’m even looking forward to the next book.


  1. I’m confused about the live blogging and reading a book thing. How do you read and write at sametime? I’m lost thinking about the complexity of the puzzling conundrum, I was not aware possible without a paradoxical collision of words… Yeah, I was confused 🙂

    • Read for 15 minutes, comment on what you’ve read for 2. not a big deal when you’re a fast typer and keep the edit screen open.

  2. Neat! Never thought of it

  3. …You have adequately captured my feelings as well. Good but not great, somewhat repetitive, relies a bit too much on cliches. Overall, a good read.

    • Yes! i am adequate!

      • Conga-rats, man!

  4. Yes, I too agree with this review, the Norns where very flat characters that needed to die quickly. They’ll need to improve on this in the second book or it’s going to be fatal.
    I lived with the cliches, I enjoyed the descriptions of the locations and the story was good overall the level of lore was about right, bit more might have been nice perhaps not sure.

    • I thought Gyda was kind of flat, but as I said in the review, I liked Gullik

  5. Considering the constraints with which the authors worked it turned out better than expected, speaking on a personal level of course. Knowing so much about the new ‘world’ yet not being able to use a large proportion of that world must have presented them with major problems. Surprisingly, there were relatively few spoilers as far as the future Guild Wars 2 game goes. As you say Hunter, it is hard to see the influence of the two authors, I would assume that one wrote, the other supplied plot, devices etc?

    • ah ha but we don’t know what isn’t being spoiled yet! so maybe there are? I dont’ know.

  6. Now that I’ve finished GoA myself, I finally went back to read your live blog 1 and 2, plus this review.

    You’re right on the ball on a lot of points. For the most part, I think you and I are of the same mind when it comes to this book. The story itself was cliched and typical of game tie-in novels, but at the same time I too was impressed at how well written it was, prose wise. I’ll be writing my own review soon, I think, but I just wanted to pop in and let you know how much I enjoyed reading your posts on GoA.

    • You must have finished it pretty quickly, I remember you saying you might start it a few days ago.

      can’t wait to read your review, thanks for commenting.

  7. […] a sample of the first chapter, go here.  As reviews go, mine will be nowhere near as detailed as Hunter’s (who even had a live blog going) or Anjin’s over at Bullet Points, but I’ll give my […]

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